Ferrari SP312 1969
In 1967 Ferrari won the World Sports/ Prototype Championship after a thrilling finish with Porsche at the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch. The car they used was the P4 model, a mid-engined prototype fitted with their 4-litre VI2 engine. When the CSI changed the rules for Prototype racing by reducing the maximum engine capacity to 3 litres for the 1968 season Enzo Ferrari was understandably furious because a great deal of very expensive machinery was rendered obsolete overnight. Although Ferrari had a perfectly good 3-litre racing engine he decided that as a matter of principle he would not race Prototypes in 1968-and he kept his word. But for 1969 he decided to make a return to two-seater racing with the 312P powered by a slightly detuned version of the 3-litre Vt2 Formula I engine.
The Ferrari team took on a very big programme for 1969, starting with the Tasman series in Australia and New Zealand which Chris Amon won for Ferrari and during the main part of the season they competed in Formula I with the VI2 engined car, Formula 2 with the V6 Dino engine car, the European Mountain Championship with the special flat 12 engined car, the world Sports/Prototype Championship with the 312P and the CanAm series with the 6I2P, powered by a 6.2-litre VI2 engine.
Testing the 3 12P started only early in 1969 and as the first Championship race was in February there was a fairly rushed development programme which wasn't helped by the fact that number one driver Chris Amon was involved with the Tasman series until February. The team missed the Daytona 24-hours and the car made its debut at the Sebring 12-hours where it was driven by Chris Amon and Mario Andretti. The car had very little trouble in practice apart from minor gear change problems and the two drivers put in the fastest practice laps, nearly a second faster than the next car, a Lola and two seconds quicker than the best Porsche. In ,the race the Ferrari was either first or second for most of the distance but the car hit a piece of glassfibre which had fallen from the bodywork of another car and the radiator intake was blocked off 60 causing the engine to overheat. This slowed the car, and another stop because of faulty number illumination during the night, dropped it back, but the Porsches suffered serious trouble and the Ferrari eventually finished second.
At the BOAC 500 two cars were entered but one was withdrawn leaving Amon and Pedro Rodriguez to take on a horde of Porsches. The car went well, holding second or third place in the early stages but a puncture followed by a stretched throttle cable slowed the car and it dropped from third to fourth in the final hour, where it finished.
On home ground in the Monza 1000 Kms Ferrari entered two cars for Amon/Andretti and Rodriguez/Schetty the second car being fitted with the lighter Formula I gearbox and slightly modified suspension. The team had a lot of practice trouble with their Firestone tyres which threw treads and caused Schetty to have a very high speed spin. Although the cars went very rapidly in the race more tyre trouble slowed them and eventually Amon's car retired with no oil pressure and Rodriguez had an enormous accident when the rear bodywork blew off and the car was wrecked.
Only one car was entered for the Spa 1000 Kms race driven by Pedro Rodriguez and David Piper in the absence of Amon who was ill. The car was always in contention for the lead, and but for a contretemps with another car which lost some time while the car was checked for damage, they may well have won, but they had to be content with second place. Again for the Nurburgring 1000 Kms only one car was entered, this time for Amon and Rodriguez again. The car was probably the fastest on the track but Rodriguez was unhappy about a vibration when he drove the car and dropped back to fourth. Amon put in the fastest lap of the race at 8min. 3.3secs to try and get back in contention but the electrical system failed and he was forced to retire.
The final race of the Championship season for Ferrari was the Le Mans 24-hour race where the cars were fitted with coupe bodywork, the drivers being
Amon/Schetty, Rodriguez/Piper. It was an unsuccessful ending to their Championship season because Amon was put out in the first lap crash which cost the life of John Woolfe when the Ferrari struck the wreckage of Woolfe's Porsche. The other car lasted until the early hours of the morning but a combination of gearbox trouble and engine oil leaks forced it out of the race.
The 312P (3-litre, 12 cylinder, Prototype) is based on the 1968 CanAm car, using a tubular frame to which light alloy panels are riveted and bonded to form a strong chassis. The 3-litre VI2 is identical to that of the Formula I engine with a bore and stroke of 77. Imm x 53.5mm for a capacity of 2,997cc. With four camshafts and Lucas fuel injection the engine gives 420bhp at 9,800rpm on its I I : I compression ratio and drives through a twin plate Borg and Beck clutch to the Ferrari five-speed gearbox. Suspension at the front is by double wishbones and Koni coil spring/damper units and at the rear by
single top links, reversed lower wishbones and twin radius arms. Disc brakes by Girling are outboard mounted all round although originally the rear brakes were inboard next to the final drive unit. Cast magnesium Campagnolo wheels are fitted, having a diameter of Is in with a variety of rim widths available. The open bodywork is in glass-fibre as was the coupe bodywork which made its solitary appearance at Le Mans.
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